Mothers capitalize on increased demand for breast milk - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mothers capitalize on increased demand for breast milk

Breast milk donation  processing Breast milk donation processing
Breast milk can really help sick babies Breast milk can really help sick babies

Studies show breast-fed babies tend to be healthier, smarter, even less likely to be obese.

Those statistics are making breast milk a valuable commodity. Now some moms are choosing to produce extra breast milk to donate or sell.

For more than a year, Nicole Hutchison's routine went something like this: feed her baby, pump extra breast milk, and donate it to her local non-profit milk bank.

In all, Hutchison donated more than 3,200 ounces.

"I decided to donate my breast milk whenever I discovered that I had a really abundant supply," Hutchinson said.

That donation is life-saving according to doctor Sheela Geraghty with Cincinnati Children's Center for Breastfeeding Medicine.

"That milk is life-saving for babies who are sick and in the hospital,” Geraghty said.

Non-profit milk banks accept donations from screened donors to provide to fragile infants. Donations from milk banks can also feed premature infants who may not be able to ingest their mother's milk.

Milk banks that are part of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) pasteurize the milk that is donated before feeding it to babies.

HMBANA-affiliated Mother's Milk Bank of Mississippi opened donor milk depots in Oxford, Tupelo,  and Columbus Mississippi last fall.

Click here to learn more about Mother's Milk Bank of Mississippi.

As researchers discover more benefits of breast milk, the demand for breast milk grows.

HMBANA said non-profit milk banks are now competing with companies compensating women for their donations.

"The industry of commercializing human milk products is certainly growing. Private companies compensating women for their breast milk shows them that there is a clear value to this very powerful tissue," said Dr. Lars Bode, an associate producer from UC San Diego.

Moms who are having trouble making enough breast milk are often willing to buy it online.

However, that high demand is causing a problem. Some less scrupulous companies are getting into the milk-selling business. Non-profit experts said for-profit companies are sometimes selling breast milk that comes with more than you bargained for.

"We have done studies where we've seen that milk that comes from far destinations may not have been temperature controlled, may have gotten too warm, or may have a lot of bacteria and viruses in the milk,” Geraghty said.

So while some moms are willing to cash in on the booming breast milk business and make an extra buck, experts warn that currently the best place to go to get extra milk is a non-profit milk bank.

Either way, mothers' breast-milk is a priceless resource for some children and their parents.

"It is a gift to feed your child and it's a blessing to be able to share that gift with others," Hutchison said. 

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